Biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation are accelerating and are caused by a number of factors, including unsustainable resource extraction, demographic pressures, pollution, land and sea use change, invasive species and climate change.
According to a recent global assessment, approximately 75% of the planet’s land surface and 40% of its marine environment have already been degraded. When ecosystems are disrupted, important ecological processes we rely on are disrupted, including those that are fundamental to the health and well-being of communities. This, in turn, can increase the risks facing communities, such as loss of livelihoods and income, disruption of supply chains, forced migration, disease and illness, and food insecurity.
These risks are particularly acute in countries and regions affected by fragility and conflict, where livelihoods and economies are highly dependent on ecosystems and natural resources.
Despite the global scale of nature loss, its security implications are less understood than those associated with climate change or competition for natural resources—especially within traditional intelligence and security circles. Environmental degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change are relatively new security threats; they do not represent agents intentionally trying to harm people, but are instead described as “actorless threats”.
Much less attention has been paid to what the ongoing, accelerating biodiversity crisis could mean for human, national, and global security if we continue to see the collapse of pollinators, the destruction of coral reefs, or the loss of tropical forests. a few examples.
Unless concerted action is taken to address and address the causes of environmental degradation and biodiversity loss alongside the more traditional root causes of insecurity, nature loss will exacerbate the causes of instability, which in turn will both directly and contribute to further environmental degradation. a vicious cycle can occur. indirectly.
For example, greater protection of coral reefs, forests and grasslands can help address many of the central drivers of instability. By protecting terrestrial and marine ecosystems and the services they provide, we can ensure that individuals and communities receive their benefits, such as food, energy, drinking water and livelihoods for many.
These ecosystems also provide intangible benefits, including recreation and psychological well-being. They serve to regulate or support other ecosystem processes, such as climate regulation and pest control. As more individual and community needs are met, sources of tension due to resource competition and scarcity are reduced, reducing the likelihood of conflict and migration pressures in search of better economic opportunities.
Beekeeping in Gabon: how honeykeeping training helps strengthen human security and prevent conflict
Although the security implications of nature loss are poorly understood, there are already valuable examples of how conservation measures can benefit local communities and address some of the drivers of conflict and fragility.
One such example can be found in Gabon, a country with diverse wildlife and abundant natural, forestry and mining resources, but facing serious crime threats due to poaching and illegal wildlife trade.
In addition to the damage to the environment and biodiversity and the huge economic loss to the country, illegal human trafficking provides important financing for criminal, terrorist and insurgent groups operating in the sub-region, and has a direct impact on peace, security and sustainable development.
Failure to protect community rights to forests at the local level can threaten livelihoods, lead to tension and potential conflict, while revenues from illegal poaching and animal trafficking can finance transnational conflict. This is particularly difficult in the Congo Basin, which is both a source and a transit area for wildlife sold to Middle Eastern and Asian markets.
Gabon’s agricultural sector is largely dependent on rain-fed agriculture. Reduced water availability and prolonged periods of drought have exacerbated land degradation, which, combined with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, has taken a toll on livelihoods, food security and human capital.
The strict movement restrictions imposed in most countries have also severely disrupted economic activities: in Gabon, more than 70% of household businesses have seen their income decline. The resulting loss of livelihoods and economic opportunities has increased food insecurity, and minimal government safety nets increase incentives for illegal logging, wildlife poaching, or involvement in non-state armed groups or criminal organizations, leading to further ecosystem degradation and species loss. causes.
In response, Conservation Justice has provided honey farming training opportunities through EU funding to provide effective alternative livelihood strategies against illegal resource exploitation. This is an approach that has already shown great potential in solving a number of problems.
Raising and conserving bees can provide alternative livelihood strategies by providing additional income and economic opportunities, as well as providing the ecosystem services they provide. Beekeeping and honey production can help meet household income needs and make important contributions to local development by supporting key factors in peace and conflict prevention.
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Bee pollination directly contributes to food security, biodiversity, income diversity, biofuels, availability of medicines, stable soils and diverse wildlife. By facilitating plant reproduction, animal pollination supports 75% of global food crops, including fruits and vegetables.
Without pollinators like bees, these foods and crops like coffee, almonds, and cocoa would likely disappear. Loss of pollination services, together with other biophysical and socio-economic factors affecting ecosystems, will result in crop losses and may have severe economic impacts, particularly in sub-Saharan communities and countries that are heavily dependent on small-scale agriculture and cash crops. their incomes, livelihoods and food security.
This Protective Justice project is already showing its benefits in practice. Honey production, api-tourism development and community forest management create new forms of income and allow communities in Gabon to meet some of their needs by reducing pressure on natural resources. These communities, whose main economic activity is agriculture, started diversifying beekeeping and expanded community forestry based on the development of non-timber forest products.
Similar successes in using honey farming to solve environmental and social problems can be found elsewhere in the region. Some honey beekeepers in Africa say their work also contributes to the restoration of degraded forest areas and wildlife. The health and productivity of bees is linked to the health and well-being of the environment they pollinate, which ripples to benefit crop production and variability.
There have even been successful trials of “beehive fences” to keep large mammals safely away from agricultural fields and reduce human-wildlife conflict. Protection of bees and their habitat can be expanded to include protection of other wildlife and ecosystems, increasing the range of crops for increased returns.
Investments in honey conservation are also investments in household and community safety. Funding for beekeeping entrepreneurship allows households to gain employment or diversify by selling honey, thus providing livelihood security, while supporting pollinator colonies and agricultural livelihoods. Improved personal and household income security, in turn, reduces certain causes of conflict – contributing to a more peaceful society.
Recognizing nature as the foundation of security and well-being
The honey farming project in Gabon is just one example of many projects where the nature-security nexus is working. This link highlights that expanding and strengthening actions to protect, restore and sustainably manage biodiversity, ecosystems and their services not only benefits the environment and those who depend on it, but is also vital to preventing conflict and enhancing security.
Although many of the links between the biodiversity crisis and security remain unclear, stresses on ecosystems and their services have profound and potentially far-reaching implications for human, national, and global security. (and investments) attention nature and natural systems before their degradation – and before conflict starts – can be tools for conflict prevention, peace building and security.
National governments should adjust security planning to better understand and address opportunities for security and well-being, preventing increased threats and conflicts stemming from nature degradation by increasing investments in ecosystem protection and restoration.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own and not those of Impakter.com — Featured Photo: A bee in front of a flower. Featured Photo Credit: Boris Smokrovich.